Tamiami Tales

Central Cocoanut Residents Relieved About Scrapped Carwash Plans

Tommy’s Express Car Wash withdrew a proposal for a new location in the historic Central Cocoanut neighborhood, just north of downtown Sarasota.

By Kim Doleatto May 11, 2023

1716 N. Tamiami Trail, in Sarasota.

Representatives of Tommy’s Express Car Wash, one of which was slated to be built on a large parcel at 1716 N. Tamiami Trail, just north of downtown Sarasota, withdrew their pending site plan proposal with the City of Sarasota last week.

Area residents in the historic Central Cocoanut are relieved. Stephanie Peters, who lives directly across from the parcel, says, “It was like getting my life back.” The withdrawal of the proposal brings an end to a fierce neighborhood campaign that included a petition, “No Tommy’s Carwash” signs in front yards, social media action and education on the neighborhood’s Facebook account, and an in-person protest in December of last year.

Sticking points against the proposed car wash raised by residents at an April community workshop cited noise from multiple vacuums, car emissions, traffic congestion and an aesthetic that reviled the neighborhood’s character. Of all the concerns, however, traffic took precedence. If the plan went forward, the only ingress and egress to the car wash would have been located on 17th Street, amid homes on every side. (Due to minimum required distances between driveways, the Florida Department of Transportation bars ingress and egress from busy North Tamiami Trail.)

Protesters gathered at the proposed site of a new Tommy’s Express Car Wash on the corner of 17th Street and N. Tamiami Trail.

Image: Kim Doleatto

Tommy's withdrawal letter to the City of Sarasota offered no reasoning behind the move; however, co-owner Nick McMullen says it wasn’t due to resident pushback, but rather “the city not willing to work with us on our site layout,” which affected dumpster location and parking requirements.

Still, Tommy’s hasn’t skipped a beat and is growing, with two more car washes under construction in Venice and one headed to State Road 64 in Bradenton, plus four more Sarasota locations on the way.

The site at 1716 N. Tamiami Trail has been vacant for more than 10 years, and nearby residents like Peters understand it’s only a matter of time until it will be developed, but they hope to see a mixed-use development of retail and low-density residential no taller than four stories, for example. “A convenience store, dry cleaners, bar, chain anything or carwash, are on a no-wish list,” she says.

For more background on the story and the historic neighborhood, click here.

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